The UNIX File System

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1 The UNIX File System Magnus Johansson (May 2007) 1 UNIX file system A file system is created with mkfs. It defines a number of parameters for the system as depicted in figure 1. These paremeters include : a bootblock - contains a primary boot program for the operating system; a superblock - static parameters of the file system, like total size, block and fragment sizes of data blocks inodes - stands for index node (inodes are file headers) ; data blocks - each block has typically a size of 4 Kbytes or 8 Kbytes ; fragment data block size - typically of size 512 bytes or 1024 bytes ; The number of inodes determines the maximum number of files in the file system. Bootblock Superblock Inodes Disc Fragment Figure 1: Disk layout 1.1 File system structure Files have no structure at all, they are only flat sequences of bytes. Directories are files that contain information on how to find other files. Directories are arranged in a tree 1 structure. Different disks (machines) may have different filesystems and we need a way of accessing files located on different disks. One solution is to do it like Windows does, where we give each disk a separate name, like C: or D:. In UNIX a part or all of a disk s file system can be mounted in another disk s file system. The user sees a single file tree and no longer has to be aware of which file resides on which device. The root file 1 in fact an acyclic (and even possibly cyclic) oriented graph 1

2 system / is always available on a machine while other parts can be integrated (mounted) into the file system. Figure 2 b) shows a diskette file system mounted on the directory b, figure 2 a) shows the user view of the file system after the diskette is mounted on directory b. Hard disk / Hard disk / Diskette / a b a b x y z c d x y z c d The diskette is mounted on the directory b p q r a) How it looks like p q r b) How it is implemented Figure 2: Mounting a file system 1.2 Files and inodes A file consists of exactly one inode, and zero or more data blocks. An inode is a structure used to maintain information about the file. It includes fields for the following (see figure 3): file mode owner (user and group) timestamps (three different) size (bytes, blocks) reference count pointers to data Important: A file does NOT have a name. The file is uniquely identified by its inode number (the symbolic name of a file is stored in the encosing directory, not in the inode). The file mode is normally referred to as permissions, but it also contains information about the type of file. Normally when you do a ls -l, you see something like this: lrwxrwxrwx 1 user group file1 -rw-r--r-- 1 adavid docs file2 The first bits identify as one of: a regular file: - a directory: d a symbolic link: l some other things (see the manual page for stat for details) 2

3 Bootblock Superblock Inodes Inode number: 15 Fragment Filemode Owner Timestamps Size Reference Count Pointers to data Figure 3: An inode Permissions are the low-order 9 bits of the mode bytes and they define who may do what with the file. The bits are normally presented like rwx, where r, w and x stand for read, write, and execute, respectively. For each file this is defined for: the owner (the first 3 bits) the owner s group (the next 3 bits) everyone else (the last 3 bits) The chmod command lets you change the permission mode of a file. There are three timestamps defined: modification time - when the file was last changed access time - when the file was last read status time - when certain changes was made to the inode Through pointers in the inode we can access the file s data blocks. For reasons of disk space efficiency, there are : 12 direct pointers 1 single indirect pointer 1 double indirect pointer 1 triple indirect pointer Figure 4 shows how data blocks are accessed using the direct pointers and figure 5 shows how they are accessed using the single indirect pointer. If the file consists of 12 or fewer data blocks we can access them directly from the 12 direct pointers in the inode. For block sizes of 4 Kbytes or 8 Kbytes, this means that files up to 48 Kbytes or 96 Kbytes, respectively, can be accessed entirely from the information in the inode. The single indirect pointer is necessary in order to create files of more than 12 data blocks. The single indirect pointer points to a single data block, whose contents are treated as direct pointers to data blocks. We can now use a couple of hundred data blocks (files of a few MB). The double indirect pointer is necessary in order to create file of more than a few MB. The double indirect pointer points to a data block whose contents are treated as single indirect pointers. Each of these pointers points to a data block, whose contents are treated as direct pointers to data blocks. This is enough to reach the file size limit on most systems. 3

4 inode data blocks direct pointers (12) single indirect double indirect triple indirect Figure 4: Direct pointers inode data blocks direct pointers (12) data blocks single indirect direct pointers double indirect triple indirect Figure 5: Single indirect pointers 1.3 Directories Directories are files, but they are treated differently. A directory can be identified by its mode bytes. A directory is a file that consists of a number of records, each of which contains the following fields: a pointer to the next record a number identifying an inode (i.e. another file) a number identifying the length of the record a string containing the name of the record (max 255 chars). It is this name we usually refer to as a filename. Note that it is part of the directory, and not part of the file. (possibly some padding) If you type ls -li in the directory in figure 6, you will have the following output (the numbers in the first column are the inodes of the files): 17 -rw-r--r-- 1 (...) foo.c 29 -rwxr-xr-x 1 (...) hej 17 5 foo.c 29 3 hej Figure 6: A directory structure 4

5 27 4 test 51 5 bar.c inode 27 inode 51 Figure 7: Hard links 27 4 test 27 5 bar.c inode 27 ref=2 Figure 8: Hard links refering to the same inode 1.4 Links Hard links By associating a name in a directory with a file we get what is known as a hard link (sometimes called simply link). Do not confuse these hard links with symbolic links(see below). The directory in figure 7 contains links to inodes 27 and 51, so we can refer to file 27 as test and file 51 as bar.c. > ls -li 51 lrwxrwxrwx 1 (...) bar.c 27 -rw-r--r-- 1 (...) test We can have more than one hard link to a file. In figure 8, the reference counter in inode 27 will be 2 because there are two links to the inode, and we can use either name ( test or bar.c ) to refer to the same file. When we list the directory content using ls -i, we can see the 2 files bar.c and test have the the same inode number (27). There is absolutely no difference between the files (they are the same file with 2 names), and the links (hard links) do not need to be in the same directory. > ls -li 27 -rw-r--r-- 2 (...) bar.c 27 -rw-r--r-- 2 (...) test Hard links can be created using the command ln in the shell or the link system call Symbolic links Symbolic links are quite different from hard links. A symbolic link is actually a separate file, whose contents is the name of another file or directory. A mode bit indicates that a file is to be interpreted as a symbolic link. When you type ls -li in the directory in figure 9 you get: 51 lrwxrwxrwx 1 (...) bar.c -> test 27 -rw-r--r-- 1 (...) test Symbolic links are created with the shell command ln or the system call symlink. If we have a file that we know is a symbolic link, we can use the system call readlink to get the contents of the link, i.e. determine where it points. 5

6 27 4 test 51 5 bar.c inode 27 inode 51 "link" test Figure 9: Symbolic link 27 4 test 51 4 mail inode 27 inode 51 ref=2 (to parent) Figure 10: Directory links 1.5 Creating, using, and destroying files and directories Creating a file To create a file we use the open system call with some arguments to tell it to create a file. When you do this a free inode is found and initialized and an entry is created in the current directory to point to the inode. Initially the file is empty, that is, there are no data blocks Creating a directory To create a directory we can use either the shell command mkdir or the system call with the same name. When creating a directory the following happens: a file is created (i.e. an inode is allocated), and it is identified as a directory. Then a link to the inode is created in the current directory, and in the new directory two entries are created:. points to the directory s own inode.. points to the parent s inode Figure 10 shows the situation Removing files To remove a file we use the shell command rm or the system call unlink. When you do this the following happens: First the directory entry is freed and the record pointer of the previous entry is reset. Then the file reference counter is decreased by one, and if it reaches zero, the data blocks and the inode are freed Reading a directory It is possible to open a directory directly like any other file and read the data structures it contains. This is not the recommended method since the actual structures and the order they appear in may vary 6

7 among systems or among disks within a single system. It is also not convenient. The easy and portable method is to use the three standard functions opendir, readdir, and closedir. This is how they are used in C: DIR *d; struct dirent *f; d=opendir("nameofdirectory"); while (f=readdir(d)) { // (use f) } closedir(d); Reading an inode We can read an inode with one of the stat system calls. There is more than one stat function. Use the right one! We can now extend the C example: struct stat s; d=opendir("nameofdirectory"); while (f=readdir(d)) { //(use f) stat(f->d_name, &s); //(use s) } closedir(d); 7

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